How to improve your business: books, apps and more

We’re graphic designers and what we do is design. But we’ve learnt, after many missteps that we needed other skills to survive. Like how to work with numbers, manage cash flow, manage time, work collaboratively and more efficiently. Over time we’ve tried and tested a few apps, read a few books and relied on other online resources that have helped to shape how we work, make us more efficient and give us back a little more time. Read on for our reviews on a few apps and books that have helped us tackle those painful admin tasks.

Apps that changed the game


Meistertask is a simple project management and work trafficking tool that allows you to set up and manage unlimited projects across your team. You can set up job tickets, manage deadlines, track time, create checklists, assign tasks and more. On a pro or business plan, it also allows you to integrate with other widely used cloud-based apps like Dropbox and Google Drive and Office 365.

Before Meistertask, we managed projects manually and mainly via email – wasting a lot of time and quite literally losing money due to inefficient time management and jobs slipping through the cracks. We looked into many similar tools like Monday, Trello and Wunderlist before deciding on Meistertask. For our team of seven (five graphic designers, one copywriter and a studio manager), Meistertask’s pro plan is sufficient for now. It has helped us to organise our workflow and collaborate and work more efficiently remotely – all that and we’re just skimming its capabilities.


Before Xero, our accounting game consisted of numbers scribbled on bits of paper, diabolical Excel spreadsheets and lots of emails. Our filing system was a hot mess, and our bank statement was an adventure into the unknown – only a lot scarier. Month-end was a cycle of invoicing, reconciliations, remittances, salaries and VAT submissions. At one point, our creative director found herself doing less and less creative directing. Now we are moving our bookkeeping over to Xero and already seeing the benefits. With Xero, you can quickly review the current state of your finances, automate payments likes salaries, issue quotations and invoices, reconcile your monthly bank statements and more. It has the potential to simplify many of our financial tasks freeing up our team to get on with the business of design. If you’re just starting, make a mental note to review Xero once your business starts to grow and your financial tasks become more complex.


We design and create for a living. Before we were wiser, drawing up contracts and having them reviewed and signed by our clients was a huge pain point for us. All we wanted to do was get on with the business of creating. Now, that we’re a little older and hopefully a little wiser, we know better. Contracts are there to protect us. Enter Hellosign. Now we upload our contracts or documents, and our clients and suppliers can sign without having to print, scan and resend. That’s less time chasing signatures and less wastage overall.


We’ve used Dropbox from day one and rarely if ever, has it failed us. Our flexible approach to work means we are working from anywhere in the world at any time and still be able to collaborate on projects across our desktops, laptops and phones. We all have professional accounts, and that gives us up to 2TB of storage and when things get a little too busy, some of us make use of the Smart Sync function that allows us to save space on our devices by syncing to only those projects we’re working on – leaving everything else up in the cloud. Best of all, it’s super affordable and easy to use. In short, Dropbox is the small business’s best friend that will grow with you as your business expands, and you need more of its features.

Books that gave us a fresh perspective

The Business of Creativity: How to Build the Right Team for Success

by Keith Granet

When you start a business, you begin with an idea or a dream of what you want that business to one day be. No one does it alone – you need people, the right people, with the right skills to help you realise that dream. This book is a staple for anyone who wants to know how to build the right team to bring that dream to light. It touches on financing, marketing and PR, negotiating, recruiting talent, how to deal with toxic clients and employees and finally the role only you can play. The Business of Creativity is a straightforward, simple book with actionable tips every creative business owner must-read.

“I wanted to learn how to pitch our work, be sure we were pricing our work correctly and to pick up on when it’s a good idea to walk away from a client. This is not a quick read. It’s more like a handbook we will continue to use as we grow.” – Robin, Art Director

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

by Mark Manson

Whether you’re running a business or you’re a freelancer, knowing what to give a f*ck about is essential. Leaving the comfort of a salaried job to run your own business or start your freelance career can be a rewarding experience in many ways, but it has its downsides too. You might find yourself saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes across your desk – and at first, you’re probably right to do that. But very quickly you find yourself saying ‘yes’ for all the wrong reasons – fear you might lose out, fear of losing a horrible client, fear of not having enough work to stay afloat. What follows is chronic exhaustion and failing relationships because you’re working 17-hour days with a whole lot of unhappiness that has you wondering if you even like what you do anymore. Sound familiar?

Mark Manson’s humourous and mildly profane book hinges on one simple truth – we can’t do it all. There are a limited number of things we can give a f*ck about and to live a happy, purposeful life we need to choose wisely. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck challenges you to get real about the choices you’re making and why, and get to a place where you’re giving your precious time and energy to the right things.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

by Brené Brown

“No vulnerability? No creativity. No tolerance for failure? No innovation. It is that simple. If you’re not willing to fail, you can’t innovate. If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture, you can’t create.”– Brené Brown, A Call to Courage (Netflix, 2019)

Brené Brown takes our beliefs on what it means to be vulnerable and turns it on its head. Vulnerability is not weakness. It takes courage to show up in life, in work and let yourself be seen. That, according to Brené, is what vulnerability is, and it scares the sh*t out of most of us. Still, it is the (often excruciating) journey we all must take to get to the authentic joy and fulfilment we long for – in life, love and work.

As a graphic design agency, creativity is what we sell. We put ourselves out there every day, and we have to find a way to nurture creativity in each other. And that means being vulnerable and allowing others to do the same. Daring Greatly has helped us to understand what it means to truly cultivate creativity and innovation in our business and experience a deeper sense of connection to the work that we do, and the people we work with. It gets to the core of what it takes to show up in life with our whole heart – in spite of our fears of failure, rejection, or merely making a fool of ourselves.

Daring Greatly is a remarkable book that deserves a permanent place on your nightstand. You’ll want to return to it again and again.

New to Brene? Watch her talk A Call to Courage on Netflix or catch her Ted Talk The Power of Vulnerability at

YouTube series that keeps on inspiring

The Future

If you haven’t come across them yet, then head right over. They touch on anything and everything about running a creative design business and we’ve already learnt a great deal from them. From design tips to running a design business, it’s all delivered for free via their YouTube series. They also offer various courses too.

Honourable mentions

Good for productivity and goal setting:






Good for workflow and time management, cloud storage, email and working in a team:



Inbox Pause

You Can Book Me



Google Hangouts



Good for social media management:


Sked Social


We’ll no doubt be updating this series in the future but in the meantime get in touch via our social media platforms and share with us what has worked for you and why. We’d love to hear from you.